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Shell, shocked by Italian court decision to prosecute
January 7, 2018, 3:07 pm

An Italian federal judge has approved the prosecution of multinational oil and gas majors, the UK-based British-Dutch company Royal Dutch Shell and Rome- headquartered Italian company ENI for their role in the controversial 2011 sale of the OPL 245 oil block in Nigeria for US$1.3 billion.

The judge in Milan said that during the trial, which is expected to start on 5 March, Eni executive, Claudio Descalzi, and his predecessor, Paolo Scaroni, should be tried for their role in the deal. Shell and Eni’s Nigerian subsidiary Agip, are already being prosecuted in Nigeria.

Italian prosecutors had earlier indicted Shell and Agip for their part in the deal, which saw Nigeria selling the lucrative oil block to the two oil majors. In documents presented to the Italian court the prosecutors content that both Shell and Eni were aware that most of the $1.3 billion the companies paid to the Nigerian government to acquire the drilling rights would be distributed as bribes.

Former Nigerian Petroleum Minister Dan Etete, and a former Attorney-General, Bello Adoke, are amongst several Nigerians indicted in the deal, which was approved by then Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

In a prompt reaction to the judge's decision, Shell said it was shocked. "We are disappointed by the outcome of the preliminary hearing and the decision to indict Shell and its former employees. We believe the trial judges will conclude that there is no case against Shell or its former employees.

Despite a deeply ingrained corporate culture of ‘cover ups’ by successive Shell executive directors, Shell once again released a statement intoning: "Shell attaches the greatest importance to business integrity. It's one of our core values and is a central tenet of the Business Principles that govern the way we do business. Shell has clear rules on anti-bribery and corruption and these are included in our Code of Conduct for all staff. There is no place for bribery or corruption in our company."

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